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Aldi's current specials (from Thursday 30 Aug) include a heart rate monitor for £12.99.
My old Polar died recently so I went and got one of these. First impressions are good. Has a load of functions like recall of average and max hr's, time spent in zones, on-screen percentage readout of hr, chrono and stopwatch etc. Even a natty little LED that is green when you're in the zone and red when above it (haven't figured out how to use it yet though!). All the basics and some bells and whistles too.
The strap is a little thin and was biting me this evening after 45 mins but that might be a matter for adjustment. The menus are not the most intuitive that I've seen (I went wrong a few times during setup but fortunately my German was just enough before I got it back to English again). But it feels robust.
Don't know how long it will last but if you're thinking of dabbling in hr training or looking for a cheapo hrm, you could do worse than this one.